Hi! In this post we'll talk about status effects and their associated items; we'll take a look at all special gourds and powders and explore the kanji that flash on the screen when you get poisoned, enfeebled or succumb to terror. This is the first post for the mini-series of consumables and miscellaneous items that we have left. The end of the project is drawing close!
Disclaimer #0 — common sense is still everything. Please do not assume that I have access to some secret true knowledge; I'm just entertained by reading Sekiro in Japanese. My lore theories are just theories so treat them accordingly.
Disclaimer #1 —
trust me, I'm a professional if this fact is somehow important - I am a certified linguist. My major is English and Japanese as foreign languages, my minor is intercultural communication. Fun stuff!
Disclaimer #2 — I am not a professional translator, I have never worked in localization. Yes, I will say that something is translated poorly and something is not, and it will be my personal point of view. People have been complaining that I am picking on minor things or have weird opinions when it comes to "better translations". I want to emphasize that it's okay to have those :) Ultimately, my goal is to give you the information so you can see if the localization was good or not, whether something important was lost or not. My opinion is just that and I choose to share it, however odd it might seem.
Disclaimer #3 — I am not an expert on Buddhism or Shintoism, so if I get something wrong in the religious side of things, I'm sorry :D I will leave links to the religious terms that we will undoubtedly encounter so you can read more on your own, if you are interested.
This is a popular question in the comment section. In a nutshell, Japanese kanji usually have two types of readings: on-reading and kun-reading, there might be a number of them in each category. On-readings have carried over from Chinese since kanji were borrowed from there, and kun-readings are native to Japanese. When a kanji stands on its own and is used as a single word, it is read with its kun-reading. When a kanji is used as a part of a multi-kanji word, it is read with its on-reading. It is slightly more complicated, but in broad strokes I think it explains it.
As far as I know, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was localized into English by Mugen Creations.
[:] — colon after a vowel means that it's a long sound;
['] — apostrophe after a vowel or before a vowel (or between two [n]) means that these are two different syllables, not a single long one.
The transcriptions I give do not follow all academic rules, and I don't think it's necessary. They are just here to represent the pronunciation.
For this research I mostly used Sekiro Shadows Die Twice Official Artworks, English wiki and a number of dictionaries.
All gourds in Sekiro, including the Healing Gourd, are called 瓢箪 [hyo:tan] - bottle gourd. Bottle gourd, also called "long melon", is a real-life vine grown for its fruits. While young fruits can be eaten, mature fruits are dried and used as bottles or other utensils. The uniqueness of the bottle gourd comes from the fact that it is primarily grown to be used as a water container, and not for food. Healing Gourd in Sekiro looks like a typical bottle gourd, while other gourds that help with status abnormalities have longer necks and are more reminiscent of so-called "geese" bottle gourds. The word 瓢箪 [hyo:tan] primarily refers to the bottle gourds used as water container.
Let's talk about Poison! When your status bar appears on the screen, the kanji that you can see on the left is 毒 [doku] - poison. When the bar fills up and you are poisoned, the kanji on the screen are 中毒 [chu:doku] - poisoning.
All three gourds we're going to cover in this post share the second part of their names: they're all 曲がり瓢箪 [magari hyo:tan] - curved bottle gourd. "Curved" is clearly referring to their long necks, reminiscent of real-life "geese" bottle gourds. So, Green Mossy Gourd's original name is 緑苔の曲がり瓢箪 [ryokutai no magari hyo:tan] - green mossy curved bottle gourd. The word 緑苔 [ryokutai] usually refers to green moss, so the localization is on point.
I think, the wording "this gourd was made" misleads players into thinking that this is a single unique item, which is definitely not the case. It's a plant, and it grows from the soil.
「緑苔の瓢箪は、毒地に生え、毒に抗い育つ」- "green mossy bottle gourds sprout in poisonous soil and grow, fighting against the poison".
「同じように、毒地で生まれ育つ生き物は、毒の影響を受けぬようになるという」 - "It is said that, similarly [to the gourd], those living creatures who are born and raised in these poisonous lands become immune to the effect of poison".
I remember skipping this piece of lore on my first playthrough and spending like a dozen attempts on Shirahagi trying to poison her with Sabimaru. I was like, "Why doesn't it work? She is an okami descendent, they are vulnerable to poison!" And then I looked around and realized that this lady literally lives in a pool of poison and feels fine. On the contrary, her counterpart Snake Eye, Shirafuji, is extremely vulnerable to poison because she lives on the snowy cliffs above and doesn't have poison immunity.
Green Mossy Gourd can be purchased from the Toxic Memorial Mob as you descend onto the Sunken Valley floor where these gourds apparently grow. When you drink from it, the kanji that show up on the screen are 耐毒 [taidoku] - resistance to poison, the 耐 [tai] part comes from the word 耐性 [taisei] - resistance.
To save yourself from stronger poison, you can, in true FromSoftware fashion, poison yourself before your enemies or the environment can! How cool is that. Contact Medicine's original name is 中り薬 [atarigusuri], I think "Contact Medicine" is a great localization for this item. Could also be "Poisonous Medicine", since the first line of the description says 「毒に中る粉薬」 - "poison-stricken powdered medicine".
The description is localized accurately, this item is associated with Ashina shinobi, the Nightjar. The last line is quite cryptic:
I think, it can also be translated as "knowing how to use poisons too expands the mind". However, it's not really clear what "specific technique" the description references. The only fun thing with Contact Medicine that I know is using it to gain infinite Mist Raven without being attacked because poison damage is counted as being attacked. If you know more creative uses of Contact Medicine, please share them in the comments!
When you use Contact Medicine, the kanji that flash on the screen are the same that you get when poisoned by any other means: 中毒 [chu:doku] - poisoning.
Almost all powders that we're going to cover today have the same naming pattern: negative effect + 消し [keshi] - erasing, putting out + 粉 [ko] - powder or dust. Antidote powder is 毒消し粉 [dokukeshiko] - quite literally "antidote powder".
The original description doesn't say anything about this antidote being powerful, it's just an antidote concocted by the Sunken Valley people. The last paragraph is quite inaccurate because the original description references the specific places in the Sunken Valley very clearly:
「落ち谷の底には磁鉄の鉱脈があるが、あたりは毒だまりである」- "there are magnetite ore veins on the bottom of the Sunken Valley, however there is poisonous swamp in the vicinity".
The description specifically mentions Sunken Valley floor where all the poison is, and also Poison Pool in Ashina Depths where Shirahagi dwells with her buddies. Apparently, they mine magnetite there to supply the Gun Fort above. They are exceptionally resistant to poison but not immune, probably that's why they still need to have some Antidote Powder on hand.
When you use this item, the first kanji that appears on the screen is this one - 癒 [yu] - healing or cure, it can be a verb 癒す [iyasu] - to heal, to alleviate condition. And then you get the same kanji that you see from using Green Mossy Gourd: 耐毒 [taidoku] - resistance to poison.
Moving on to Burn status effect! When the bar appears on your screen, the kanji on the left is 炎 [honoo] - flame. When the bar fills up and you start burning, the kanji are 炎上 [enjo:] - going up in flames.
Its original name is 赤枯れの曲がり瓢箪 [akagare no magari hyo:tan] - withered red curved bottle gourd. The first part of the description about the gourd being filled with the medicinal waters that are replenished after resting is identical across all gourds.
The English localization missed the line 「また、炎によるダメージを軽減する」 - "It also reduces fire damage". Even though the same line in the powders' description is written a little bit differently - "[reduces damage] from fire attacks" - 「炎攻撃」, I think, the meaning is the same. The Gourd will not only increase your resistance but also ensure you take less damage from fire attacks.
For some incredibly unfortunate reason, the localization also completely skipped the last paragraph even though they had plenty of space left on the card. This is the part that tells us about how these gourds grow.
「この瓢箪は、焦土より芽を出し、曲がり育つ｜故にその薬水は、炎に抗う力を持つのだろう」 - "these gourds sprout from scorched earth and grow curved. Consequently, their medicinal waters have the power to resist flames".
You might remember that it is Harunaga that sells you this gourd near burning Hirata Estate. These gourds sprout from scorched earth, so no wonder they grow there. It's a pity that this part was skipped, all three gourds have a paragraph that describes where they grow and where they get their special abilities from.
When you drink from this gourd, the kanji that flash on the screen are 耐炎 [taien] - resistance to burning, the full form of this word is 耐炎性 [taiensei] - flameproof.
Dousing Powder #1 is called 火消し粉 [hikeshiko] - extinguishing powder. This is the type of powder that you mostly find throughout Hirata Estate. It is a "powdered medicine for treating burns". The description is accurate, Dousing Powder is exceptionally useful not only because it heals the status but also because it buffs you against Burn attacks.
Similarly to Antidote Powder, when you use Dousing Powder, you get the kanji 癒 [yu] - healing or cure, and then 耐炎 [taien] - resistance to burning.
Dousing Powder #2 is called 赤備えの火消し粉 [akazonae no hikeshiko] - extinguishing powder of the Red Troops, or extinguishing powder of the Akazonae. Akazonae was a military organization during Sengoku and Edo periods, elite forces wearing bright red armor, distinguished by their bravery and exceptional prowess. Akazonae were usually led by a busho - an outstanding military commander. Akazonae that invade Ashina are led by Shigekichi of the Red Guard, his original name is 赤備えの重吉 [akazonae no shigekichi] - Shigekichi of the Akazonae.
This powder is specifically described as the one that agents of the Interior Ministry carry, so this Akazonae troop led by Shigekichi does belong to the Interior Ministry or is allied with them.
「変若水で生まれる、葦名の赤目」- "Ashina's Red Eyes, born of the waters of Rejuvenation".
I think, it was critical to localize 赤目 [akame] as "Red Eyes", as it's been localized before when talking about ogres and other Red Eyes that fear fire. Genichiro also has red eyes from consuming Rejuvenating waters, one of the Ashina Elites does to. The description refers specifically to them. That is why the Ministry is not just killing all the Ashina people, they are burning the land because Red Eyes fear fire and who knows how many of the Ashina consumed the waters of Rejuvenation.
「それを恐がれか、内府方は火で攻め寄せた」- "fearing [Red Eyes], people of the Interior Ministry made an onslaught on Ashina with fire".
They carry this powder not to burn themselves. The kanji that appear when you use this powder are the exact same ones that appear when you use regular powder: 癒 [yu] - healing or cure, and then 耐炎 [taien] - resistance to burning.
When the Terror status bar appears on your screen, the kanji on the left is 怖 [fu] - dreadful, fearful, it can be an adjective 怖い [kowai] - scary, or the verb 怖がる [kowagaru] - to be afraid. When the bar fills up, the kanji that flash on your screen are 怖気 [ojike] - fear, dread.
Its original name is まだら紫の曲がり瓢箪 [madara murasaki magari hyo:tan] - speckled purple curved bottle gourd. The localization again ignored the fact that it is a plant that grows in specific places and made it sound like a unique item.
「この瓢箪は、墓場や戦場跡といった｜忌み場で芽吹き、曲がり育つ」- "these gourds sprout in the places of mourning and death, such as graveyards and battlefields, and grow curved".
You can purchase this gourd from the Exiled Memorial Mob just before Mibu Village. The village itself is not really the happiest of places, there is a graveyard where the undead grab you by the ankles from under the ground so everything checks out. The villagers also throw stuff at you, and it builds up Terror.
When you drink from this gourd, the kanji you see are 耐怖 [taifu] - resistance to terror.
Pacifying agent is called 怖気消し [ojikegeshi] - literally "fear extinguisher". Weirdly enough, it doesn't have "powder" in its name even though the description states that it is, in fact, powdered medicine just like everything else we've looked at. I think, Pacifying agent is a great name for it.
"Unspeakable deeds" in Japanese is 忌み仕事 - "work that is considered taboo" but also "work that is related to mourning and death". I think, both fit, considering that the description gives some examples: grave keepers and the Memorial Mob. What the localization translated as "executioners", is in fact 介錯人 [kaishakunin] - a person who beheads one who has committed seppuku. Headless enemies inflict terror on Wolf too, think about not only the Headless but also about the Guardian Ape and his scream where he puts his head back to his neck.
The last paragraph was somewhat combined with the second one, not a great decision because in the original the powder has nothing to do with covering your rear, while the English localization makes it seem that you're supposed to sprinkle some Pacifying Agent on your butt if you get scared.
「そして備えは、今一つ。怖気しながら、尻隠せ」- "There is one more precaution. When terrified, cover your behind."
This "precaution" might sound strange but I'm sure that you know where it's coming from, especially if you remember our Headless research way back when. If a Headless manages to grab Wolf, he will extract Wolf's shirikodama (尻子玉) - a mythical ball containing one's soul, located inside the anus. When seized with fear, protect your soul and the place where it's located.
The kanji that appear when you use this powder are pretty standard: 癒 [yu] - healing or cure, and then 耐怖 [taifu] - resistance to terror.
When your shock bar is filling up, the kanji on the left is 雷 [kaminari] - lightning. When you get zapped, the kanji that appear on the screen are 打雷 [darei] - "struck by lightning".
Its original name is うな胆 [unatan] - eel liver. Eel liver is very special because it's not a medicine, or a powdered medicine like all the other consumables we've looked at, but a 妙薬 [myo:yaku] - miracle cure. The "altar" is 神棚 [kamidana] - a miniature household altar in Shinto religion, usually high on the wall, where people worship deities through offering prayers, food, flowers and shintai - items of great symbolic value for the gods to inhabit. Ashina people keep eel liver on their kamidana.
The last paragraph of the description is true poetry. It uses two words that are read as [kaminari]: 雷 [kaminari] as "lightning", and 神鳴り [kaminari] as "echo of gods", because in the ancient times people believed that gods make lightnings happen.
「雷とは、源の神鳴りだ」 - "lightning is an echo of the Fountainhead god".
「神鳴りも、しばらくならば抑えられるよう」- "echo of the god can be suppressed, if only for a short while".
When you consume Eel liver, the kanji that appear on the screen are 耐雷 [tairai] - resistance to lightning. I've never noticed it before but when you eat the liver, there is a slight crackling sound.
Moving on to the statuses that do not really have any sort of items or descriptions associated with them - Enfeebled! When the bar starts building up, the kanji on the left is 年 [toshi] - age. When the bar fills up - interestingly enough, it fills up only when white wisps reach the noble - you get struck by 年寄 [toshiyori] - old age. If you manage to kill the noble who enfeebled you, the kanji that you'll see on the screen will be 若返 [wakagaeri] - restoration of youth.
Who would've thought that in the world of Sekiro where there is terror, burning, poison, and lightning the most dangerous status with the least likely recovery will be old age.
I think, the enfeeblement mechanic gives more lore about the nobles than probably anything else. They crave youth, they want to live a long life. When Harunaga asks you for scales the very first time you meet him, he says, "I want to become a carp. A giant carp that will continue growing, and live a long, long life. A carp that never grows old..." and then "The damned fools at Fountainhead Palace... Soon, I'll be a carp. And as age withers you away, as you sit powerless in the face of eternity... I'll be the new Great Carp."
We'll talk about them more as we get to explore the Fountainhead Palace. When Wolf takes back his youth, he basically eats it out of the noble's chest and neck much in the same way the nobles themselves kill okami for their youth.
The last status effect that has only two kanji associated with it and no descriptions of any sort is Medicine Ban, you get it when caught in a cloud of green mist that Owl creates during the Great Shinobi bossfight. The kanji are 禁薬 [kin'yaku] - drug/medicine prohibition, and it prevents Wolf from using healing items. There is no status bar filling up so the only thing that we have are these kanji.
The differences between Great Shinobi and Owl Father bossfights have always fascinated me. In Great Shinobi bossfight Owl is not in his prime anymore, and it's taken away some of his confidence since he often resorts to more treacherous means of fighting: dust clouds, poison, medicine ban, while in the Father bossfight he uses none of these things.
I thought this will be a great opportunity to talk about the bright red kanji that we all know and love: it appears countless times throughout the game nearly in every single fight and bestows upon you both shock and terror in real life :D Of course, it's 危 [ki] - danger, the kanji that heralds perilous attacks. Its adjective is 危ない [abunai] - dangerous or perilous, the localization here is on point. It can also be used as "Careful!" warning. If there is one single kanji that Sekiro teaches players regardless of their knowledge of Japanese - it's this one.
And that was all about Status Effects! In the next post we'll talk about all the items that have to do with healing and resurrection: divine grass, pellets, bite down, everything. We're nearing the end of item exploration, I think there are a couple more posts left, and then we can proceed to area exploration. I'll save some area-related items such as Prayer Necklaces for when we get to travel across Ashina and look at the places in a great detail.
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.